CNN chief claims US media 'censored' war

Golden: "a reluctance to criticise"

US news organisations "censored" their coverage of the US campaign in Afghanistan in order to be in step with public opinion in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, a CNN senior executive has claimed.

Coverage of the war in Afghanistan was shaped by the level of public support that existed for US action, Rena Golden, the executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International claimed.

Speaking at Newsworld Asia, a conference for news executives in Singapore, Golden said: "Anyone who claims the US media didn’t censor itself is kidding you. It wasn’t a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticise anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people.

"And this isn’t just a CNN issue -every journalist who was in any way involved in 9/11 is partly responsible." Senior figures from Afghanistan and Pakistan criticised Western news organisations which flooded the region with journalists, who were unfamiliar with its politics and history.

Major General Rashid Quereshi, chief media advisor to Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, spoke during a debate on whether Western news coverage undermined the Government’s ability to balance its support for the anti-terror campaign and the hostility of its Muslim people.

He told delegates that at one stage there had been 3,500 foreign journalists in the country "many of whom knew nothing about the country or its problems".

The presence of so many journalists caused "serious difficulties for a Government determined not to impose press restrictions on the media", he claimed.

APTN chief Ian Ritchie agreed: "If journalists are to have objectivity, they first need to understand."

CNN New Delhi chief Satinder Bindra also backed claims that by pushing "harder than they should for a story" some journalists endangered other colleagues in the field.

"One of many totally untrained journalists I encountered was determined to get closer to the front – close enough to see the Taliban frontline," said Bindra. "I told him that if we could see the Taliban, they could see us, and they’d shoot us. For what purpose? There was no story, no good picture, but because this guy wanted to make a name for himself we all had to follow, just in case."

By Julie Tomlin

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